Professional development opportunities for future faculty and early career scholars

Upcoming division meetings will feature sessions focused on a variety of issues about academic careers, including the future needs of school psychology personnel

By Bryn Harris and Amanda L. Sullivan

Recruitment and retention of new faculty are major concerns for the field of school psychology in the United States. For example, in a recent study, Clopton and Haselhuhn (2009) found that 47.9% (n= 167) of school psychology faculty indicated that they would retire in the next 15 years. While the need for school psychology faculty is projected to rise in future years, graduate students are not entering the field at a rate representative of the current need. Thus, it is expected that there will be ample opportunities for graduates interested in faculty careers. In addition, studies show that certain groups (i.e., individuals of color and women) are less likely to receive tenure and may benefit from additional mentorship and skill building (Ginther & Hayes, 2003). Such mentoring and professional development can also be beneficial in supporting early success and preventing burnout among trainers in general. Based on the projected high demand for faculty members in the near future, it is important that aspiring faculty receive appropriate mentoring and new professors who enter academia are retained and successfully navigate the promotion and tenure process. Unfortunately, many students and early careers scholars find it difficult to obtain appropriate mentoring in this domain, particularly information specific to school psychology, which, by virtue of its dual research and practice emphases, is distinct from many other graduate educational fields.

Recognizing the need for targeted programming to address these particular needs of the field, two assistant professors of school psychology – Dr. Bryn Harris at the University of Colorado Denver and Dr. Amanda Sullivan of the University of Minnesota are leading an initiative aimed at providing targeted professional development and networking opportunities for graduate students and practitioners interested in careers in academia, as well as junior faculty.

Opportunities for professional development for junior faculty exist at both of school psychology’s primary conventions, our own Division 16 events included in the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Annual Meeting and the National Association of School Psychology’s (NASP) Annual Meeting. APA holds its conference in August while the NASP convention is in February. Since NASP is fast approaching, the present article highlights activities for graduate students, practitioners interested in careers in academia, and early career faculty that may be of interest at this meeting.

First, there will be six sessions focused on a variety of issues pertaining to careers in academia (see Table 1). Each session will include a panel of faculty from throughout the country, with ample time for audience interaction. The goal of these sessions is to provide a variety of perspectives on the roles of faculty and the ways to successfully navigate entry into the field and one’s early years as a professor of school psychology. Topics range from preparing for a faculty career in graduate school, securing an initial position, fostering productive research and teaching, and maintaining healthy worklife balance. Speakers represent a variety of training backgrounds, research and teaching interests, and career trajectories. Likewise, they hail from an array of school psychology programs and institutions of higher education.

In addition to these panels, there will be a special session on careers in academia hosted by the Early Career Workgroup to discuss reflections and advice from early career scholars, midcareer scholars, and senior faculty on how to be most productive in one’s first years of an academic career. This special session entitled Hitting the Ground Running: Maximizing Your First Years in Academia will be held on Wednesday, February 22nd from 4 pm to 5:20 and is led by Dr. Amanda Sullivan, University of Minnesota; Dr. Bryn Harris, University of Colorado Denver; Judith Kaufman, Fairleigh Dickinson University; and Sarah Valley-Gray, Nova Southeastern University. Furthermore, the Trainers of School Psychologists (TSP) will be hosting a pre-NASP mini-conference and a junior faculty meeting during the conference that is open to those new to the field. Junior faculty can attend these events to engage with other trainers at all careers stages about training issues in school psychology. The junior faculty meeting in particular offers the opportunity to meet with early career trainers to discuss topics pertinent to those new to the field, establish connections with peers, receive advice for navigating those difficult early years in the field, and communicate professional needs to TSP junior faculty committee members. There will also be opportunities for networking and socializing during the conference for students and faculty to discuss issues of professional development for aspiring and new faculty. Those interested in these events should look for the TSP hospitality suite schedule.

We hope that advisors will disseminate this information to their graduate students and established faculty members will inform junior faculty of these events. Please contact Bryn Harris or Amanda Sullivan if you have any questions or suggestions for future activities geared towards the development of graduate students interested in faculty careers or existing junior faculty members.

Table 1
NASP 2012 Sessions for Future Faculty and Early Career Scholars

Table 1


Clopton, K. L., & Haselhuhn, C. W. (2009). School Psychology Trainer Shortage in the USA: Current Status and Projections for the Future. School Psychology International, 30, 24-42.

Ginther, D. K., & Hayes, K. J. (2003). Gender differences in salary and promotion for faculty in the humanities, 1977-1995. Journal of Human Resources, 38, 34–73.

Bryn Harris, School of Education and Human Development, University of Colorado Denver.
Amanda L. Sullivan, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota.